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Statute of Limitations for DUI in California

Not long ago, you were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Orange County. You were arrested in the early morning hours of a Saturday, so you spent the night in jail and were released the following day. Before you were released, you were handed a notice with a court date.

You were good, you were sure to show up to court at your scheduled date and time, but when you got there you were told that the local prosecutor had yet to file DUI charges. Now, months have passed and still no word from the court.

Should you celebrate? Does this mean that you just dodged a bullet, or is the district attorney in his office somewhere, busily mounting a case against you? You get nervous every time you get your mail, and are now wondering how long this will be hanging over your head.

The question is, what is the statute of limitations for a DUI in California?

Your DUI Charges Are Probably Pending

No word from the court since your first appearance? The truth of the matter is that DUI charges will probably be filed any day now. In California, the district attorney has one year from the date of the offense to file charges on a misdemeanor DUI. You can read more about this under Section 802(a) of the California Penal Code.

As long as the prosecutor files the DUI charge within one year of the offense, the DA has not missed the statute of limitations. If a DUI warrant is issued, for example, because you fail to appear for a DUI court hearing, the statute of limitations does not apply. DUI warrants are good indefinitely and do not expire.

Usually, the local prosecutors are good about filing DUI charges before a DUI defendant’s first court date, but once in a while, something causes a delay in the filing. For example, the DA is waiting for the results of the blood test, or the prosecutor has a heavy caseload and hasn’t gotten around to it, or the driver’s BAC was just below the legal limit.

If you went to court and learned that no charges had been filed yet, the court staff should have told you that you will receive a notice in the mail once the charges are filed. Don’t make the mistake of waiting and hoping the prosecutor will forget, because that’s highly unlikely.

Instead of waiting it out, it’s much better to be proactive and hire a DUI defense attorney who can try to prevent formal charges from being filed in the first place.

Waiting on the prosecutor to file charges? Contact us to work with one of Orange County’s top DUI defense firms. Schedule your free consultation today!